The Leeds Women Against the Clause March

Leeds Women Against the Clause March (5 March 1988)
Victoria Gardens
Over two thousand Leeds people marched against Clause 28 (Section 28) during the Stop the Clause Demonstration on the 5th of March, 1988. The March was organised by Leeds Women against the Clause and met in Victoria Gardens before marching through the city. The March was against the controversial Conservative Government policy called Clause 28: this would mean that local authorities could not intentionally promote homosexuality, or that schools could not teaching of the acceptability of homosexuality. Clause 28 was made into law in 1988, before being repealed in 2003 by the New Labour government.

The Leeds Women against the Clause March was just one of many mass marches against Clause 28. Clause 28 was the Conservative Government’s policy for local authorities not to be seen promoting homosexuality. This would mean the local authorities “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.” This would mean that councils could be prohibited from funding books, plays, leaflets, films, or other materials showing same-sex relationships, while teachers wouldn’t be allowed to teach about homosexual relationships in schools. There were two major reasons why the Conservative Government wanted to introduce this policy, the first being the perceived eroding to heterosexual family values by the acceptance of homosexuality in society and secondly the widespread fear of the spread of AIDS which was directed at homosexuals and bisexuals. This political and social climate allowed the Conservative Government to create Clause 28, which was later called the first piece of homophobic legislation introduced in the United Kingdom for a century.

For twenty years from 1974, the Leeds Other Paper provided an alternative slant on life in the city, announcing its arrival with the mission statement: “It is our intention to support all groups active in industry and elsewhere for greater control of their own lives.” For the first time, LGBT readers found event listings, reviews and advice included within a title aimed at a wider readership of Leeds residents. These can be found in the Local and Family History Department. The Leeds Other Paper’s coverage of the Clause 28 protests is an invaluable resource.

The Leeds Other Paper showed how the promotion of Clause 28 allowed homophobic comments to be made by high officials, one being Pudsey South Independent Councillor Peter Kesting who stated that gays and lesbians should not even be allowed into local government buildings after Clause 28 was legislated. Though Kesting’s statements were objected to by the other councillors, these homophobic views were being increasingly voiced.

Leeds Other Paper, February 5, 1988, p.3

Clause 28 caused outrage within the LGBT Community. Michael Cashman, an actor on Eastenders in 1988, voiced his concern about Clause 28, stating, “the implementation of this bill would make people from the LGBT community second class citizens.” In addition to this, due to the vague wording of Clause 28, there were legitimate worries that LGBT clubs and bars would have their licenses taken away – as this could be seen as the local authority promoting homosexuality.

Leeds Other Paper, February 12, 1988, p.9

There were mass marches across the country against Clause 28. In Manchester the North West Lesbian and Gay Equality Campaign organized a march where over 20,000 people took to the streets to march against Clause 28, Ian McKellen was one of the protesters on the march.

Leeds Other Paper, February 28, 1988

The Leeds Women against Clause 28 group organised a march through Leeds on the 5th March 1988. Around 2000 people attended the Leeds march which began at Victoria Gardens, outside the Leeds Art Gallery and Leeds Central Library. The Yorkshire Evening Post here shows that the Leeds Trades Council, the Leeds & Bradford Young Lesbians and Leeds Claimants’ Union all participated in the march.

Yorkshire Evening Post, March 7, 1988, p.3

Interestingly, the Leeds March seemed to have been marred by a possible bomb scare which could have been linked to the march. The Leeds Other Paper states how an incendiary device was found outside the Astoria the day after an anti-clause 28 benefit was held there. Though there was no direct link between the found device and the anti-clause 28 benefit, this caused concern for the police with the high profile march being held only a couple of days later.

Leeds Other Paper, March 11, 1988, p.1 

The Conservative Government legislated Clause 28 on the 24th May 1988. There were further protests by the LGBT Community in Leeds after this became law. Clause 28 was later repealed for the whole of the United Kingdom by the Labour Government on the 18th September 2003.

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